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Merced council to weigh city budget at public hearing Monday night

The Merced City Council will hold a public hearing on the 2011-12 proposed city budget at its meeting tonight.

The city is facing a deficit in excess of $5 million because local property and sales taxes dropped more than 30 percent during the recession.

To balance the budget, the city has issued layoff notices to 47 employees, contracted out mowing services and cut expenses such as travel, training and maintenance. Over the past three years, the city has laid off employees and eliminated more than 90 positions, used some of its $16 million in reserves, lowered employee medical benefits, raised employee pension contributions and cut additional expenses to deal with the declining revenues.

The council will continue discussion of the budget at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in the council chambers.

Also on the agenda is a public hearing on the Gateways and Project Area 2 redevelopment areas five-year implementation plans. The plans will guide the agency's development in the downtown areas through 2016.

The council also will be posting notice of vacancies for several organizations, including the Bicycle Advisory Commission, Building and Housing Board of Appeals, Recreation and Parks Commission and Regional Airport Authority.

The regular meeting will be at 7 p.m. in the council chambers on the second floor of the Merced Civic Center, 678 W. 18th St. A closed session will be held at 5:30 p.m. to confer with labor negotiators and to discuss existing litigation.

The agenda is posted at and will be available outside the chambers prior to the meeting. Request-to-speak cards are available at the meeting or can be downloaded from the city's website. Cards must be turned in to the city clerk for a person to be recognized by the council.